Missing trial defendant pleads guilty
HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man who missed the first two days of his jury trial on drug delivery, possession, criminal conspiracy and related charges showed up Thursday in Blair County Court and pleaded guilty to all offenses.
“He said he went to Pittsburgh and couldn’t get a ride back,” defense attorney Doug Keating said after Ryan Michael Bare, 35, rendered the guilty pleas on what would have been the third and last day of his jury trial.
“The jury is still waiting, so we could go back over to Courtroom 1 and put this matter in the jury’s hands,” Judge Jackie Bernard told Bare in Courtroom 5, where she questioned him about his decision to render guilty pleas.
Bare, in response, said he was pleading guilty because he is guilty. He will be sentenced Nov. 13, after a pre-sentence investigation is completed.
District Attorney Pete Weeks said he intends to ask Bernard to impose a sentence of more than 10 years based on Bare’s offenses, his criminal history and his possession of a stolen firearm.
“He’s a serial offender who has made no effort to rehabilitate,” Weeks said.
Online court records show Bare’s drug-related offenses filed in adult court date back to 2004 when he was 19 years old.
In court Wednesday, jurors heard Altoona police and drug law enforcement agents testify about the search warrant executed March 13, 2019, at Bare’s residence, 110 Third Ave. It was a day after Bare sold heroin with fentanyl or a synthetic version of fentanyl, and ecstasy to a confidential informant who was working with police.
During the search, police found 579 stamp bags of heroin, 3 grams of raw heroin, a gram of crack cocaine, a Smith & Wesson handgun and $2,669 in cash. Some of the drugs and the handgun were found under Bare’s mother’s bed. In court Thursday, he acknowledged having his mother, Constance Martinez, hold drugs for him so he had drugs to sell. When Weeks asked Bare if he did that to keep himself from using the drugs, Bare said yes.
As a result of the search, police also charged Martinez with drug offenses that are still pending in county court.
Bare also acknowledged in court Thursday that based on his criminal history, he is prohibited from possessing a handgun like the one found during the search. He also acknowledged knowing that the gun was stolen or probably stolen.
Bare, who arranged through a bondsman to post $100,000 cash bail in December 2019, was expected to attend a bail revocation hearing last Friday. When he didn’t show, a bench warrant was issued.
When Bare didn’t show for his trial Tuesday, Keating advised the judge that he had been unable to make contact with Bare over the weekend or on Monday. Bernard delayed the trial while efforts were undertaken to find Bare, then dismissed the jury about noon. When the jury returned Wednesday and Keating still hadn’t heard from his client, Bernard advised the jurors that the trial would move forward and that they should evaluate the case based on the evidence and not the defendant’s absence.
Weeks put several witnesses on the stand Wednesday. Four witnesses were slated to testify Thursday, but that testimony was put on hold while Bare prepared to render his guilty pleas. In light of Bare’s decision, Bernard sent the jury to lunch at 11 a.m., took Bare’s plea, then dismissed the jurors when they were back from lunch about 1 p.m.
After Bare rendered his pleas, Weeks said he greatly appreciated the service rendered by the jurors in this unusual case.
Two of the three days they showed up for jury duty were filled with delays they didn’t know anything about, he said.
Weeks also told Bernard that because Bare turned himself in with the help of his bail bondsman, he would ask for Bare’s bail to be revoked but not forfeited. Bernard agreed, and advised Bare that he will remain in Blair County Prison but neither he nor his bail bondsman will lose money.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.